There is one turtle farm left on earth that breeds sea turtles for human consumption and advocates say it’ time to shut it down.
The Cayman Turtle Farm is owned by the government and serves two purposes. It is a tourist attraction but it’s also a farm where sea turtles are bred and then shipped off as turtle meat.
Sea turtles are solitary, migratory creatures, born to swim long distances in clear waters. They are wild animals. So imagine the cruelty of trapping one in a small filthy tank.
There are 9,500 turtles at the Cayman Turtle Farm and the World Animal Protection organization says these cramped turtles spend their whole lives fighting for space in cramped tanks.
Tourists visiting the farm are encouraged to handle the turtles, not realizing that this causes the turtles mental torment. Tourists are targeted again when these same turtles are slaughtered and served as steaks and burgers in local restaurants.
Petition to stop turtle slaughter for meat
A petition is being circulated asking people to sign it for delivery to the Cayman government
The organization’s solution is for the farm to be turned into a sea turtle rehabilitation and education facility like the Kélonia Observatory for Marine Turtles on the island of Réunion which mirrors the conditions of a turtle’s natural habitat.
Kélonia has become a world-respected research sea turtle conservation and education facility, and a popular eco-tourist destination.
The Cayman Islands Turtle Farm, according to its history, believes it is sustaining the turtle populations. The farm was established in 1968 by a group of investors from the US and UK as a facility to raise green seat turtles–Chelonia mydas, for commercial purposes.
The intention was to supply the market with a source of product that did not deplete the wild populations further, according to the farm.
By releasing turtles and facilitating research, any harm created by removing turtles and eggs from the wild would be mitigated.
Abundance of sea turtles in the 17th, 18th century
In the 1600 and 1700’s the Cayman Islands became a provisioning stop for vessels sailing the Caribbean because of an abundance of green sea turtles, which could be caught and kept alive on board as a source of fresh meat. Permanent settlements developed on the Cayman Islands in the seventeenth century and turtling became a means of income as well as providing a local source of food.
However, the turtles around the islands were depleted by the early 1800’s and the turtling industry focused around the Miskito Cays off the coast of Nicaragua.
The Cayman turtling fleet continued operating at a sustained level until the early 1900’s. By this time turtle populations were dwindling and, in subsequent years, national and international regulations and alternative sources of income reduced the turtling industry to a negligible level.
The appearance of the turtle on the Cayman Islands’ flag, seal and currency reflects the close association the people have to the turtle.
Photo credit: Cayman Island Turtle Farm